Jenny Famewhore

An empire state of mind

Posted in New York by Jenny Famewhore on November 22, 2009

Part two of New York, Je t’aime (Part I here)

These are the two places that would be found if I were to dissect the stomach of the greatest city in the world and peer straight into its folds:


BARNEY GREENGRASS

Sundays are brunch days: chefs with higher culinary aspirations relegated to arranging plates of fruit, yogurt and granola, scrambling eggs with deli-cuts and American cheese, manning the waffle iron, and assembling it all buffet-style- unloved by the creative and for the undiscerning masses (famished church-goers, children, and their assorted pets).

And somehow, there is a pleasing magic to this tradition. A tradition that is elevated to its lofty level in my heart by Barney Greengrass, on the Upper West Side. Barney Greengrass is so quintessentially New York, it’s a cliché. Diner coffee that is scalding hot, and made from a shitty powder mix. None of that premium, plucked by fair-trade-represented Colombian workers, double-roasted smoky elixirs. Just inelaborate, black joe best with a liberal full 4 second pour of room-temperature milk from that steel creamer that had been sitting there before you even got to the table, and several packets of dominos.  It cheaply offers the same satisfying caffeinated punch necessary for waking up at the ungodly early hours of noon.

The service is no-frills, abrupt, and efficient. Egos should be firmly grounded before venturing in– no diva behavior will be entertained. Servers offer their opinions, unrequested. It’s like going to lunch at your nosy grandmother’s. She will comment on what you’re eating, and she will openly judge you for your order (if your grandmother is anything like mine– she is paradoxical. She will also comment on why my figure is not that of a ballerina’s, while pressuring me to eat more of everything else). The food though, like at grandma’s, is freaking fantastic.

Barney Greengrass (alongside those other Famous Delis) is also responsible for elevating Jewish food to its distinctive culinary form in New York. Anthony Bourdain loves it, and that man has notorious good tastes (a 10,000$/hr brilliant, nationally televised palate). The sturgeon is king here– “regret” should not be a vocabulary in the following 24 hours post-consumption of BG’s godly trinity of sturgeon, smoked salmon, or Nova scrambled with eggs and onion.

Additionally, Eric and I ordered the triple decker sandwich of roast beef, chicken fat, chicken liver, turkey, cole slaw and russian dressing. One of the servers came around and said, “Good luck with that.” Then, on the way back, he repeated, “Again, good luck.” But his assessment was incorrect. False, sir. It wasn’t enough, because it was SO DELICIOUS (the nutty, graininess of the bread spread upon with smooth, savory liver paste, and ground turkey, skipping down my throat- gobble gobbledeedoo– wholly satisfying despite the bland adjective in caps), we wanted more of it. Even though chicken fat and chicken liver usually aren’t my thing– hahahaha, who am I kidding? Fat is always my thing.

DI FARA

the mushroom slice I regretted getting only one of

A New York adventure is not complete without New York pizza. I’ve had many an arguments with my once-upon-an-Italian-lover over the superiority of New York pizza to the traditional Italian slices. Sorry dude, despite how charming your accent was on your persuasive speech, taste experience trumps rhetoric. The same way America takes plain Japanese sushi and transforms it into the magical Dragon roll, New York just took Roma and Sicily to the playing field on pizza and dominated. It’s just the facts of evolution. Enters one of the evolutionee at the front of the pack, Di Fara (pizzeria), out on Avenue J in the abyss of Brooklyn. The crust is feather light (a distinguishing NY trait), made with pastry dough, San Marzano tomatoes basked and plucked from the sunshine of Italy, and basil from Israel. Locavores would sit in a corner and cry as they ate this pizza, moral fortitude crushed by the crispy foundation of dough with the fresh cheese and sweet tomatoes melted together into one tasty, gooey fresco. On our visit, an outspoken Italian Brooklynite, clearly a long-time user and accomplice of Di Fara’s, leaning casually (strategically) on the counter, was cajoling Eric, with his stuck-in-an-elevator pitch of the holy virginal birth of this pizza, egging him on to purchase and consume the last pricey 5$ slice. He looked at the guy, the slice, the guy (still whispering sweet nothings), back to the slice. 2 against 1; hardly a fair fight.

Referenced Locations:

Barney Greengrass
541 Amsterdam Avenue at 86th Street
New York, NY 10024
(212) 724-4707
http://www.barneygreengrass.com

Di Fara
1424 Ave J
Brooklyn, NY 11230
(718) 258-1367
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Anxiety Baking

Posted in Recipes by Jenny Famewhore on November 18, 2009

(Delicious) Apricot-Oatmeal Bar

Crunchy, buttery, gooey reminder of summer all packed into self-defined bite size. For lovers of crusts, the slight tang of apricot, and those who are procrastinating on doing anything but what they’re supposed to, this apricot-oatmeal bar is quick and guiltless until you realize that half of it is gone; but by then, the sugar kick has already set in and back to work reinvigorated it is.

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Thursday in the Heights: Bar Lola

Posted in Boston by Jenny Famewhore on November 17, 2009

If there are any college students still dating, a tapas bar is the perfect date spot; and a social reflection of our comparison-shopping tendencies, truncated attention spans, and a life of overwhelming choices. The tapas bar is a restaurant manifestation of the non-exclusive standard of love. Eating many little meals means you never have to commit to only one– one dish, or one lover. If the date sucks, just huff up those tiny appetizer-sized plates and beg over that check.

I find the difficulties that Frank Bruni’s hyperbolic grousing about the “death of the entree” referred to (enduring 17 bites of one thing is a luxury for a food critic) hard to justify and a wee sanctimonious when juxtaposed against the rising global food insecurity. Let’s be optimistic. There are only three meals in a day, an infinity plus one array of food and ways to make them. I would probably never get around to 1/4 of all that exists even if I were to eat something different every day. For me, tapas are the perfect way to adventurously taste everything without resorting to, say, asking Andrew to awkwardly entreat his friend who works at Late Night at BC dining to sneak over a single fry, that’s all- just one, for me. Or having to look wide-eyed and innocent at my dining companions and cautiously (in a manner that doesn’t invoke a vision of an Orphan Oliver hover-crafting-over their food) beseech, “Are you going to finish that?”

One day, I may settle into the peaceful cradle of satiety- a truce with curiosity- and find my niche, like, on a dirty bar stool in the Lower East Side of New York with my 17 Coronas and 17 sliders, but until then, I will keep looking towards that horizon, wondering what’s on the other side, and rallying for those tapas to keep coming.

Sultry Atmosphere And Tiny Bites At Boston’s Bar Lola


bar lola

Published in the November 12, 2009 Edition of the Heights

My friend and I were to have dinner one night, and she left me the exquisite burden of choosing the restaurant, along with a few footnotes: classy, but not overly extravagant; conducive to a long gossip session; and adventurous. It was like seeking the necessary characteristics in a perfect partner, but I only needed this place for a few magical hours. (I’ll let you in on a trade secret – Menupages and Chowhound is the foodie version of Craigslist.) So it was with these parameters in mind that I came upon Bar Lola, a tapas bar a short four blocks from Copley Station, on a corner of a tree-lined street flanked by colonial brownstones.

At Bar Lola, we were faced with a formidable menu spanning upwards of 40 dishes, ranging from tapas frias, or cold plates, with classics such as the Tortilla Espanola and Manchego y Serranno, and tapas calientes, or hot plates, with anything from fried calamari to sea scallops to roasted duckling to rabbit.

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Mac and Cheese takedown taken-down

Posted in Boston, Recipes by Jenny Famewhore on November 15, 2009
Mac and Cheese throwdown prize

a hastily written sign, and three boxes of 'good tastes' mac

Cooked, went, distributed, and conquered the Mac and Cheese takedown today (Nov. 15) at Great Scott, and here’s a one giant, self-congratulatory, spoiler about the conclusion: My Mac and Cheese-hurriedly-entitled, “Jenny’s Mac and Cheese: Asian invasion,” won 2nd place people’s choice!!!

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At the Great Scott: a sold out event

It was my first time ever entering a food competition (and my fourth time ever making legitimate Mac and Cheese, including the practice batch made yesterday) and aside from the prize of three boxes of Good tastes’ Four Cheese, Mediterranean, and Brie & Fig Mac & Cheese, I also gained a plump blister on my index finger from chopping onions all morning, the wicked pleasure of hearing my name announced with gusto and then followed by an explosive applause (I wish I could get a video of that to replay during moments of low-confidence,) and met some fantastic cooks in the Boston area– fierce, tingly delicious, and creative competition.

I thank my academy of people: Anna, for introducing me to the Thrillist mailing list where I discovered this chance; friends who were present last night at Larissa’s wine party, who were subjected to the delights of being my guinea pig control group for the test batch; Erin, for opening my cans when I was rushing around and freaking out a la Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit; Kristen, for driving me to Great Scott; and to all the people who courageously ate my Mac & Cheese and voted for it.

Of approximately 20 entrants, other great Mac and Cheese contenders included: lobster mac and cheese (to my left;) Mac and cheese of Doom with peppers, whole wheat pasta (to my right;)  truffle and thyme mac and cheese with sea salt sprinkled on top; Gorgonzola mac and cheese with crushed walnuts; bacon mac and cheese with homemade BBQ sauce (the boy had a clever t-shirt exclaiming, “Basically like God .. on a plate.. with bacon;”) and a judge’s choice first place winner, double-baked taters with chives, sour-cream, and bacon Mac and Cheese. Nom nom, that was delicious and appealed to my taste buds in a comforting, extremely satisfying way.

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The final product-- a pan-asian experiment

I’ll let you in on a dirty, behind the scenes secret: I hadn’t a clue how my Asian Invasion Mac and Cheese tasted when I served it– it was my first time making it with all the recipe edits and augmentations. I woke up late and ran out of time making it, so I covered it immediately out of the oven, and booked it to the venue. Then I stood there and served it to 200 people behind the hot, sweaty lines on an adrenaline high of having subsisted on nothing but Dunkin’ Donut coffee with a turbo shot, and a pint of Strongbow, semi-consciously hoping that no food or taste poisoning occurs. Victory tastes sweetest when least expected.

Making-of and recipe follows.

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Throwing it down

Posted in Boston by Jenny Famewhore on November 11, 2009

Image: Matt Langdon & Chili-Takedown.com

November 15th, this weekend, I, along with other food-loving Bostonians, will be at the Great Scott (@ Harvard Ave.,) to parlay our culinary skills and pride into a Macaroni and Cheese steel-cage death match. $10 for all you can eat cheesy, buttery, crunchy, creamy, and whatever wizardry the lovable Mac can be interpreted into. Don’t worry about dietary efforts– your mind will have already exploded from the sheer magnitude of fulfillment before the fat can make its way to your arteries.

Let me reiterate:

That’s right. This Sunday. My “Mac and Cheese still yet Untitled” will make an appearance. Come and vote for me, lovers!

 

November 14th addendum:

A visual strip tease of the prep; gearing up for the big day tomorrow-

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the financial strains of making three pounds of Mac and Cheese

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my eternal servitude to whomever can guess what the secret ingredients are.

Boston Tea Party, a sequel

Posted in Boston by Jenny Famewhore on November 8, 2009

Last night, a few friends and I decided to cook some simple Japanese cuisine (tempura, udon, spam-musubi, gyouza,) so Tyler drove us down to Super 88, the closest Asian supermarket on Commonwealth Ave near Boston University. Although most of the food at Super 88 is as close to authentic as it gets without being in the middle of a large Asian immigrant community, the prices are not authentic. Without the intense competition that most Chinese supermarkets in Chinatowns nation-wide face ( having 10 supermarkets with the identical products on the same block,) Super 88’s prices closely mirrors those of Shaw’s/Star market. White people market prices.

Looking at the imported items, I cannot help but wonder: Did the economy undergo a 50% inflation overnight? Did our currency experience an apocalyptic depreciation?

Day 1 of the tower of babylon: Beijing 2005

Take for example, Kirin’s “Afternoon Tea” (午後の紅茶). I love milk-tea, and this was one of my staple drinks when I lived in Beijing for a month in 2005. Sarah Famewhore, my roommate then, and I would drink a can every day and stack it against the window of our Beixida hotel into an Egyptian salute. It grew into a tower so monstrous that the underpaid maids maliciously took it down and threw out the evidence of our hard drinking.

The love for Gogo-no-milktea continued in Tokyo, the motherland of Kirin, and, almost impossibly got better when Klaus figured out that spiking it with whiskey (doesn’t matter whether with the beloved Jack or the 500 yen Black Nikko) makes it taste ultra-fragrant (smokey, earthy like cedar,) and, along with the original intentions, packed a nice kick.

Even better, one 1.5 liter bottle of this refreshingly creamy black tea concoction was ¥150 ($1.65.) At Super 88? $5.99!!! This is like the oil situation when we were starting to bully the Middle East. This is like when the Brits had a fun-tax on the Americans and we know what transpired on the harbors of this very city…

Thursday in the Heights: Snake Bites

Posted in Recipes by Jenny Famewhore on November 1, 2009
heightssnake102909

The Heights, October 29, 2009

Snake Bites

By: Jenny Liu

Published: Thursday, October 29, 2009

In Halloweens previous, I had roped my friends into going trick-or-treating with me. But after several embarrassing encounters, wherein the candy-dispensing parents would slyly ask us, “So how old are you all?” I decided to find other ways to fulfill the needs of my inner child. In the spirit of the holiday—absurd, theatrical, and supremely over-the-top, I thought of one person I could turn to: Paula Deen, Food Network celebrity and queen of gluttonous, Southern-inspired comfort cuisine. After all, what could be scarier than scarfing down pounds of butter and cheese, and ending up in a food coma?

Paula Deen’s rise to Food Network fame was a tour de force. Legend has it, Paula Deen, recent divorcée, with two sons and two-hundred dollars, moved to Savannah, Georgia, where she started a small catering company, The Bag Lady, and soon after, a wildly successful restaurant, The Lady and Sons, which garnered critical acclaim. Now, she is the accomplished host of Paula’s Best Dishes, Paula’s Home Cooking, and Paula’s Party. With her shocking white hair and intense blue eyes, her indiscriminate use of butter and, sassy remarks, most people either want to have a heart attack watching her shows or feverously wishes she were their grandmother. I am still waiting to be adopted.

This holiday, I wanted to avoid the usual clichés of pumpkin and apple recipes and opted instead for one of Paula’s Halloween recipes, Snake Bites. The appeal of Paula Deen’s recipes is that they are generally classic, ordinary dishes, but with a hedonistic spin (And by that, I mean, injected with several sticks of butter and a bucket of lard.) This also means that they are very easy to make, even for someone like me, who, without a meal plan, is left to flounder with late-night leftovers from Roggies’ and New Hong Kong out of sheer laziness. The Snake Bites is an epic sandwich, layered with nearly two inches of deli-cuts and cheese inside a flaky, buttery crescent roll.

When assembling the innards, I halved the amount of meat, still sufficient to produce an artery-clogging glory. I don’t think the entire 30 ounces of ham, salami, and bologna the recipe calls for can possibly fit onto one crescent roll. Alternate the layers of deli-cuts and cheese for an integrated effect. Also, any type of cheese or meat can be substituted to your liking. In fact, you can throw anything but the kitchen sink in there. Even make it into a dessert. In another step, I did not use food coloring, and merely spread the egg yolk on top of the dough. Once it bakes in the oven, the yolk coating would give it a glossy brown sheen.

One lethal biteIt’s a snake! A slug! A caterpillar! Or, insert your favorite annelid here! Due to the malleability of the dough, it can be shaped into any long, cylindrical creature of your desire.

The name of the recipe, “Snake Bites,” is an obnoxious word-play in many ways, yet appropriately justified: a single bite, though not necessarily lethal, would send anyone into a lipid-induced bliss.

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